It's countdown time for what may be the biggest grossing film in history. It's already having a serious impact on the paperback charts, with four titles on the mass market list and two on the trade paperback charts, as well as other titles tracking below the top 15. John Ronald Reuel Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings trilogy was first published in paperback in 1965 in this country; it amassed sales of about three million in its first three years; today, that figure is over 50 million. Ballantine offers some current Del Rey mass market print figures (pre-movie opening) that are very impressive. The Hobbit, the prelude to the fantasy trilogy, has so far sold about 1.6 million copies in 2001, compared to 435,000 in 2000. Part one, The Fellowship of the Ring, sold about 1.8 million in 2001, compared to about 300,000 in 2000. Part two, The Two Towers, and part three, The Return of the King, have so far sold 800,000 copies each in 2001. Their 2000 sales were 230,000 and 225,000, respectively. All four are on PW's mass market bestseller list this week.

Houghton Mifflin's hardcover of The Hobbit had its first publication in the U.S. in 1938, and the three books in The Lord of the Rings trilogy were published in 1954, 1955 and 1956. The Tolkien craze was clearly fueled by the paper editions. Even so, HM's Tolkien numbers are way up there. Various editions of The Hobbit have sold about 1.1 million copies and Lord of the Rings editions (cloth, paper, one-volume editions and boxed sets) have sold about 2.3 million copies this year. HM's one-volume paperback tie-in, released in May, has 1.4 million copies in print after eight trips to press. Total sales of Tolkien's works in all configurations from HM are in excess of 4.5 million this year. All these numbers are roughly 10 times what they were in 2000 for The Lord of the Rings, and six times last year's figures for The Hobbit.

Two other tie-ins from HM--Fellowship of the Ring Visual Companion by Jude Fisher (410,000 copies in hardcover) and The Lord of the Rings Official Movie Guide by Brian Sibley (410,000 in paper, 125,000 in hardcover) are also climbing the charts.